Broken but happy.
2013 has been one of the most remarkable years of my life. A move from my adopted hometown (Austin) to the place I’m meant to be (Boulder). The winding down of a nearly 20-year run as a ticket guy as I ramped up my activity in my new(ish) career as a private investor. A change of life and lifestyle for my family, made all the easier by the great neighbors and new friends across the front range. For most of the last decade, perhaps most of my adult life, I’ve wanted to be in the mountains, to be master of my own time, to pursue the activities and relationships of my choosing. Now I have all that and I’ve not been disappointed.
Running is something of a selfish pursuit. It takes lots of time, energy, focus, and some cash to do it the way that most appeals to me. I’ve been super fortunate over the last handful of years to be able to significantly orient my days around what is, for most, a hobby. In 2013, through late November, I ran almost every day. I raced long and often – 8 times with the shortest being a hard mountain marathon, as well as my first 100k and my 2nd 100-miler within 10 months. November was a special time where I set and met an ambitious solo goal. All that was left was to wind the year down, which for the Randall family means a return to St. Louis for Thanksgiving week and a largely care-free December.
Part of my Thanksgiving tradition is a Friday morning football game with my high school friends. It has been going on for 20 years, the first dozen or so were still tackle, until we noticed a trend of games ending earlier each year, usually as a result of one or more guys needing escort to the ER. In the last few years, some of the guys have retired, as even flag football has proven to be a bit dangerous for us late 30-somethings. Not only have I strongly advocated for the continuation of the tradition, I was one of the few who fought to keep it tackle before it was clear that was a losing battle.
Enough with the foreshadowing, right? In this year’s game, early on, there was a guy who knocked legs hard with a defender. He was out for the game. Turns out he broke his tibia. That seems like about as bad an injury as might be expected playing flag football but, no. Roughly an hour into the game I released from the line (I’m still a blocker despite my precipitous drop in BMI over the years), made a catch, and turned upfield for my rare moment of glory. Then someone threw something at my leg, maybe a chunk of concrete with rebar sticking out or perhaps a toaster oven. It seemed odd and I felt the object pop against my heel and I was initially both confused and pissed off. Looking down, I saw nothing but the pain was real and I hobbled off the field.
What had actually happened wasn’t all that odd: my right achilles tendon had snapped. It is a gross and disorienting injury – it doesn’t look like much but where there was once a tight, sinewy elastic-like band joining heel bone to calf muscle, there was nothing. Just, as the ER doctor later put it in clinical terms, “mush”. The pain was acute when it popped but not as bad as a stubbed toe. The real hurting took an hour or so to set it while waiting not-so-paitiently without pain medication in the hospital.
It’s been 11 days since the injury, 5 days since the surgery. My left leg is constantly fatigued but getting stronger, as one-leg hopping is my primary mode of getting around, including up and down the stairs. Though I’ve been in a cast or hard boot since the injury, I’m still training, sort of. Every day I do an odd assortment of core work and I’m alternating days of push-ups and pulls. Running, however, is off the table for quite some time, most likely months, not weeks.
In an twist of fate that I’m still grappling with, over the weekend (two days post surgery) I was selected in the lottery to run the Western States 100. There were over 4000 entries this year (all of whom had to complete one of the designated 50- or 100-mile qualifying races) for just 270 spots. The race is June 28-29 in mountains of California and is arguably the most storied ultra marathon in the world. It is certainly one of the most difficult to get into. If it were any other race, I’d not even consider trying to ready myself for the challenge. Fully healthy, this (or any) 100-miler is a lot to tackle; contemplating doing so 6.5 months after my sort of injury is daunting. Good chance I don’t make it but I’m sure going to do all I can to make it to the starting line.
It’ll be an interesting, challenging, exhausting winter and spring. I’m guessing there will be setbacks and frustrations, too. So much of moving across the mountains is about dedication and persistence and adaptation and I consider myself quite lucky to even have the chance to test myself.
Some days I’m super motivated, others pretty discouraged. I’ll try to write about all of it when the mood hits me. Thanks to so many of you who have helped so much already. Stephanie and Alex, Brianne and Bill, Tammy and Nick, Sophia and Dave, my RMR peeps – Ryan L., Alberto, Chiara, Ryan S., Silke, Matt, our awesome baby-sitters, Haley and Davis, my parents, and thoughtful, supportive friends across Boulder County and the rest of the U.S. A special mention goes out to Alison and Sagan, who have been patient, helpful, and empathetic while I’ve been mostly cranky, stinky, and otherwise difficult. Story has been pretty unhelpful, other than having an adorable tiny head.